Stand Your Ground Laws Being Done Away With?

A potential revision of United States Stand Your Ground Laws has come up in the public discourse after two young people in two different states were shot, one fatally, for accidentally showing up at the wrong residence.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

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Two recent shootings of people who had accidentally approached the wrong address leave voters wondering if Stand Your Ground laws should be done away with, according to NPR. The shootings, which occurred within 48 hours of each other, though more than 1,000 miles apart, in New York and Kansas, involved a 20-year-old woman who had turned into the wrong driveway while looking for a friend’s home and a 16-year-old boy who had shown up at the wrong address looking for his younger siblings. Though neither victim presented a threat, both shooters seemed to believe they were in line with the law at the time of firing because of the United States Stand Your Ground laws.

Last week, Ralph Yarl was being a responsible and caring older brother when he walked up the driveway and rang the bell for a house where he believed his younger siblings were playing. Andrew D. Lester, the 84-year-old man who owned the home, told authorities that he was “scared to death,” which was why he fell back on Stand Your Ground laws and shot him through the window. According to reports, Yarl did nothing but ring the doorbell, though authorities believe a racial component may have been involved as Yarl is a Black teenager and Lester is a White man.

Yarl was shot but survived the attack, but two days later, Kaylin Gillis was not so lucky. Across the country, in rural upstate New York, Gillis was a passenger in a car with her boyfriend and two friends, and they were looking for a party. Lost and without cell phone service, the vehicle turned into a driveway that the young adults believed to be the right place—that’s when 65-year-old Kevin Monahan began to fire, something that has become increasingly common in Stand Your Ground law states.

In traditional self-defense laws, a person must prove that deadly force was required in order to avoid or survive an attack. The exception to this law is if you live in a “castle doctrine” state, which allows you to protect your home. Stand Your Ground laws provide an amendment to these laws, dictating that as long as a person is legally present in an area, they may use deadly force anytime they feel threatened, even if there were reasonable means to vacate the premises.

More than half of the United States have Stand Your Ground laws, while several others have more lenient castle doctrines that follow people to their cars or places of work. Studies have shown that states that have Stand Your Ground laws actually experience more gun violence than states that don’t. In fact, the enactment of these laws has increased homicide and firearm homicide rates by 8-11 percent, or 58 to 72 individual deaths each month across the country.

Critics of these laws claim that Stand Your Ground laws elicit a “shoot first and ask questions later” mentality for gun owners. Additionally, the laws promote racial bias as well as an overall distrust of the system.

Despite the two shootings likely having been prompted by Stand Your Ground laws, neither perpetrator will be able to use the laws for their defense as they would have to argue that they were in physical danger, and clearly, neither were. Still, the situation begs the question: would Yarl still have been shot if Stand Your Ground laws didn’t exist? Would Gillis still be alive?